A man sold a bunch of parsley to a robust woman. The woman laughed and talked as she gave him the two dollars that the hand-painted said she owed. She continued her conversation with him while she walked away, getting getting louder and louder in order for him to hear her. Soon she was out of shouting distance and disappeared. Then it was quiet. A brief lull filled the air. The vegetable stand was deserted for a moment but the peace wouldn’t last. The next rush of hungry buyers were but a moment away.
A glance. A shrug. A girl pulls at her hair. Lost in themselves they ignore the bustle of the market around them. They ignore me, too. They face each other, looking inward towards the conversation that envelopes them. I listen to the cadence, the tones of their voices as they rise and fall.
A return from a trip always reveals new things about home. The imperceptible cadence of life seems to have moved at a fast-forward pace upon our return. This is especially true if one has traveled at the change of a season. Autumn seems to have progressed more quickly when we return to a yard full of leaves and bare trees. Does life move this fast when we watch each leaf fall from a tree?
Labor Day Weekend evokes long-ago memories. When I was a kid I never cared for holiday (with apologies to my labor-union friends). It was the Back to School jingles on the radio that ruined things. The adult world was clearly taunting me, delighted to see me return to the grindstone. The days were shorter. The new school year was arriving. The summer was gone.
Lately I've taken to walking at sunset. This recent habit started on the night that my mother-in-law died. Alone with my memories and sadness, the house and its four walls were closing in on me. Dusk, with its wondrous light, was right outside the door. It lured me out and then I walked. I've been walking at sunset ever since.
I try not to visit the farmer's market on an empty stomach. The overstimulation of so much fresh, ripe food causes me to buy too much stuff. I lug it all home, as happy as a pig in pile of corn—all self-satisfied and content. But, by the miracle of time, alchemy and a big fridge, too much of the bright and colorful produce transforms into a khaki-colored sludge. This may be good for the compost pile but, at today's prices for organic produce, the green in my wallet disappears faster than the green in my refrigerator.
Everything stops cold in summer. The flow of life seems to lazily drift to a halt, like a boat that runs out of gas. I find it frustrating. It takes twice the effort to get anything done in this season because we push against an invisible force of resistance. Except for the Jersey Shore I've always felt that summer is way overrated. Once it begins I start to count the days until golden light of autumn.
The market has always been a source of photographic inspiration to me. Life swirls around me as I poke my camera into produce, flowers and food stands. Every so often an ordinary moment of human behavior and interaction stands out as something significant. Why does ordinary life seem so extraordinary in the two-dimensional world of still photography? I suppose this is the great mystery of photography and why it compels so many of us to look at our world through the lens.
Sometimes the camera makes me feel like a boy in a bubble. The lens separates me from what’s going on in front of it. My life seems suspended as I float along a sidewalk or path. It’s as if I were a Martian visiting the planet for the first time—a hovering alien, looking at the world the way a curious cat might study a bug. The camera does this to me.
Cherries and asparagus always meet at a certain time in spring and a particular market in San Rafael, California. As if in a May-December romance, the asparagus is on the way out while the cherries are on the way in. They sit adjacent to one another among a sea of produce stands. Their rendezvous is but a short one and lasts only a week or two. The the asparagus quickly disappears along with the people who sell it. The cherries are left to fend for themselves but their season isn't a long one. Soon they make way for the stalwarts of summer: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and sweet corn.